Category Archives: Contempory

Small Great Things- Jodi Picoult


Synopsis

When the baby of .a white supremacist dies fingers point to black nurse Ruth who had been banned from caring for the child.

Review

I was excited about reading ‘Small Great Things’ as I generally really enjoy what Picoult writes, but I was also a little unsure. For a white author to write in the voice of a black woman could be problematic, I was concerned about stereotypes, or just that generally the character wouldn’t be right. Thinking about it more I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be concerned about it, after all part of Picoult’s writing is about people who aren’t herself. She can never be a black woman, but then she can never be a male lawyer with epilepsy either, or a child who speaks to God (or at least she can’t be that and a teenage witch, school shooter, abused teenager, abused child, suicide victim) so why shouldn’t she be able to imagine the voice of a black woman?

Whether she wrote an actual realistic representation of a black woman, I can’t say, but I didn’t think that it was stereotypical, and I did think that an interesting view was put on racism which seemed rather empathic. Whether she was actually a believable character is a bit of a moot point, because Picoult definitely did a good job of highlighting, sometimes unnoticed, elements of prejudice and racism.

What I was more surprised about was how Picoult managed to make the voice of the white supremacist a voice which couple be understood and sympathised with- beyond simply as the voice of a man who had lost his child. It wasn’t so much that you could understand why he was racist as you could see how someone could fall into that life.

There was one part of the story which I did find hard to believe, and I don’t think it was really needed. Maybe Picoult just wanted a twist at the end. I won’t say what it was because of spoilers.

I found when I started writing this review that ‘Small Great Things’ is being made into a film– lets hope a better job is made of it as there was on ‘My Sister’s Keeper.’

4//5

Buy it:

Paperback (£2.99)

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Other Reviews:

Annette’s Book Stop

So Many Books, So Little Time

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

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Beelzebelle- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Beelzebelle is the fifth book in the Clovenhoof series

Synopsis

Only Jeremy Clovenhoof could accidentally acquire a baby, but he’s ready to be a Dad- in his own way.

Meanwhile Michael has discovered a new church, Ben has found a new hobby in taxidermy, and there is a wild beast roaming around Sutton Coldfield.

Review

I’m glad to see the series back with Clovenhoof, not that I didn’t like the others, I just missed that group.

Clovenhoof approaches parenthood like no other, including hiring a monkey assistant  and joining a mother’s group in a quest for milk for the baby. Of course things don’t quite go to plan, especially as he’s not really the baby’s father!

A lot of the more action-y part of the story is focussed around Michael who finds a new church which rewards its members for ‘good deads’, a bit like a supermarket loyalty card. and also, accidently creates a beast in the lab where he works.

As with most of the clovenhoof novels most of the action is towards the end, but there is an amusing journey to get there.

4/5 

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Our Endless Numbered Days- Claire Fuller


Synopsis (written by me!)

When Peggy is young she goes on a trip with her father to a cut off area of the woods, her father tells her that the world has ended, and everyone she knew is dead. They are the only survivors and must keep themselves alive living off the land.  The story is told looking back after Peggy has found the world again, and discovered that her father was lying.

Review

It took me a very long time to get into this book, I as reading it for months. I was in the middle of a slump, which probably was a part of it, but the story was slower than I had expected, and a lot of the time not much was really happening. Towards the end it picked up a lot, and I read the last, maybe third, quite quickly. I’m not sure that last section actually brought up the story enough for me to recommend it, but it probably just about made it worthwhile for me as someone who had already started it.

As I’m writing this review more bits of the book are coming back to me from what was quite hazy. There were some good plot points throughout, although not enough to make me eager to read. They were nice little touches though, and they might be enough for others.

Looking at other reviews it seems to be a very much ‘marmite’ book, so I suppose it might be worth giving a try, although it seems that if you don’t like it close to the

3/5

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Other Reviews

Me, My Shelf and I

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Word By Word

 

 

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

Didn’t Get Frazzled- David Z. Hirsch


Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Medical student Seth Levine faces escalating stress and gallows humor as he struggles with the collapse of his romantic relationships and all preconceived notions of what it means to be a doctor. It doesn’t take long before he realizes not getting frazzled is the least of his problems.

Seth encounters a student so arrogant he boasts that he’ll eat any cadaver part he can’t name, an instructor so dedicated she tests the student’s ability to perform a gynecological exam on herself, and a woman so captivating that Seth will do whatever it takes to make her laugh, including regale her with a story about a diagnostic squabble over an erection.

Review

The author of ‘Didn’t Get Frazzled’ (whose name isn’t actually David Z. Hirsch, that’s a pen name) is a doctor, and that made me a puzzle a lot of the time over how much was true and how much of this story was made up. I’d like to think that most of the actual medical stuff was true, but with patients and doctors given different names, but that the personal stuff was more made up. I at least would expect medical fact to be true.

It compares fairly closely to ‘The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly’ which I think is part of what confused me. It probably is a bit more accessible though because of the extra personal details given. Although I think I would be perfectly happy with just the medical bits to be honest, they were the sections which interested me the most.

Overall I really did enjoy it, there was just one section, where Seth and his friends went to a sort of sex club which I didn’t like, and found completely unneeded to the plot.

I would recommend it though. It’s an interesting, engaging, sometimes funny, and easy read, You could probably read it in one sitting if you had time.

4/5

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Juliet, Naked- Nick Hornby


Synopsis (from amazon)

Annie lives in a dull town on England’s bleak east coast and is in a relationship with Duncan which mirrors the place; Tucker was once a brilliant songwriter and performer, who’s gone into seclusion in rural America – or at least that’s what his fans think. Duncan is obsessed with Tucker’s work, to the point of derangement, and when Annie dares to go public on her dislike of his latest album, there are quite unexpected, life-changing consequences for all three.

Review

Wow it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this quickly, took me just over a day. I’m not convinced it’s all down to the book, I was phoneless at the time (ok that’s not quite true, I had the boyfriend’s old iphone which is so out of date that apps just aren’t compatible with it) so there were less distractions.

Part of it was the book though. Hornby is very readable, and the story was engaging. It had a bit of a High Fidelity feel about it, although I wouldn’t say it’s up to the same level.

Part of what I liked but also sort of disliked was that the characters were rather unlikeable. I suppose that makes them more real, which is good, but it did mean I didn’t feel that much of a connection with them.

The ending sort of fizzled out too which was disappointing but maybe true to life.

4/5

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Love Anthony- Lisa Genova


Synopsis (from amazon)

Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a ‘normal’ life was shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. He didn’t speak, hated to be touched, almost never made eye contact. Then, just as Olivia was learning that happiness and autism could coexist after all, Anthony was gone.

Now she’s alone on Nantucket, desperate to find meaning in her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman, Beth, brings Anthony alive again in a most unexpected way. In a piercing story about motherhood, autism and love, two unforgettable women discover the small but exuberant voice that leads them both to the answers they need.

Review

I’m becoming quite a fan of Lisa Genova, and I enjoyed this one, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. It still had the sort of knowledge I would expect of Genova, she obviously had more than a layman’s knowledge of autism, but that didn’t really feel like the centre of the story.

The story was more about the two women, and, although that story was somewhat involving, it didn’t have that extra kick that I expect from a Genova novel.

I felt like I was reading the novel waiting for the two stories, the stories of the two women, to intertwine. Part of that was I think because of the synopsis I read (which was the one above) which made it seem like there would be more of a relationship between the two women. The relationship was pretty intense, but it was also a while in coming.

I did enjoy it it just wasn’t a typical Genova.

4/5

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Kindle (£5.99)

Paperback (£7.99)

Currently part of amazon’s 3 of £10 promotion

Other reviews:

So Many Books, So Little Time

Reading With Tea

 

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Psychology (fiction)

Ready Player One- Earnest Cline


Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be, where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based in the culture of the late twentieth century. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle.

Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.

Review

I’d been hearing great things about Ready Player One, reviews that almost made me want to read it, but I didn’t really think it sounded like my type of book, so I didn’t seek it out.

Then I was trying to think of a present for my partner. I’d had a fair amount of success with books which sounded good but a little too fantasy or sci-fi for me, so Ready Player One came to mind.

My partner really enjoyed it, so, when my TBR pile wasn’t looking especially appealing, I decided to borrow it.

Oh how I wish I’d read it sooner. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sci-fi- which is the main thing that puts me off, but this book definitely fell on the love side of things.

It had everything, action, romance, intrigue. The geek in me loved it. A lot of people say that they liked the nostalgia element, but most of the things based o the past were from the 80s, I was born i 87 so a bit early for me, and I was’t a console player anyway which a lot was based o. Maybe if I was I would have enjoyed it eve more, but as it was I loved it.

5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.84)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Book Journey

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Silly Little Mischief

Ink and Page

Girl Vs Bookshelf

Leeswammes’ Blog

Words For Worms

Nylon Admiral

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Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review

Oddjobs- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s the end of the world as we know it, but someone still needs to do the paperwork.
Incomprehensible horrors from beyond are going to devour our world but that’s no excuse to get all emotional about it. Morag Murray works for the secret government organisation responsible for making sure the apocalypse goes as smoothly and as quietly as possible.
In her first week on the job, Morag has to hunt down a man-eating starfish, solve a supernatural murder and, if she’s got time, prevent her own inevitable death.

Review

I’ve been really enjoying the Clovenhoof books by Goody and Grant (I’m reading Hellzapoppin’ at the moment) so when they sent me an offer to read the first book from their new series I jumped at the chance.

Oddjobs has the same humourous tone that the Clovenhoof books do but I think it has a bit more of an edge to it.  It’s a little bit political, about work in general and probably a lot about more about government work (I’ve only ever really worked in that sector so I’m not sure how true it would be of other sectors).  Basically about red tape and silly ideas.

It has more action throughout that the Clovenhoof books too, which makes it readable in a different way.

Clovenhoof is probably a bit more easy going, but I think overall this might be a more interesting series, I’ll be looking forward to the next one.

4/5

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Jonathon Safron Foer


Synopsis (from amazon)

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies.

When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.

Review

After loving Everything is Illuminated I had high hopes for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, maybe that’s why I was a little unimpressed. It took me a while to really get going, and it really didn’t have the emotion that I expected. I expected Oscar’s Dad’s death to be a major theme but it was more of a trigger point for the rest of the story.

There was a certain amount of emotion, but I’m pretty sure Oscar was autistic, or at least he didn’t show emotion in the ways most people would. It just didn’t hit me like I expected.

Reading on a kindle didn’t help either, there are pictures in the book, which were in the kindle version, but they were never very well displayed, whether that is just a kindle thing I’m not 100% sure, but I think it probably was.

In the end I did sort of enjoy it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.99)

Paperback (£8.99)

Other reviews:

Knitting and Sundries

The Perpetual Page Turner

Lit and Life

 

 

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, YA

The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps- Michael Faber


Synopsis (from amazon)

Note: I don’t like this synopsis, but it’s the best of a bad bunch and I can’t write a better one myself, so…yeah

Siân, troubled by dark dreams and seeking distraction, joins an archaeological dig at Whitby. The abbey’s one hundred and ninety-nine steps link the twenty-first century with the ruins of the past and Siân is swept into a mystery involving a long-hidden murder, a fragile manuscript in a bottle and a cast of most peculiar characters. Equal parts historical thriller, romance and ghost story, this is an ingenious literary page-turner and is completely unforgettable.

Review

This is more a novella than a novel, which suits my reading habits right now.

The synopsis makes it sound more exciting that it really is, it’s more interesting than exciting. The story carried on nicely though, and was quite beautifully written, it’s no Crimson Petal and the White but it fills the gap well enough.

There’s not really that much of a story to it. The letter offers some intrigue, but it isn’t really used to the best it could be, and the romance was a bit everyday.

I did enjoy it enough though to be disappointed when my kindle copy ended at around 60%, and I felt a bit ripped off, I must admit the customer service at canongate were very good when I complained on twitter though.

Both editions listed below also contain the novella ‘The Courage Consort’

3/5

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The Seed Collectors- Scarlett Thomas


Synopsis (from goodreads)

Aunt Oleander is dead. In the Garden of England her extended family gather to remember her, to tell stories and to rekindle old memories. To each of her nearest and dearest Oleander has left a precious seed pod. But along with it comes a family secret that could open the hardest of hearts but also break the closest ties…

Review

I adored Pop Co. and loved The End of Mr Y, but the Scarlett Thomas books which I’ve read since have been a bit disappointing, not not good, just not as good. So I approached The Seed Collectors with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.

I think with The Seed Collectors Thomas is getting back to the writer I love, the writer who I was excited to see new books by. I think the gap between this book and her last was bigger, and maybe that shows.

It’s still not as good as Pop Co. It took more time to fall into- more like The End of Mr Y- but I ended up loving it all the same.

It wasn’t exactly what I expected, I expected it to mainly be a book about the seeds, but it wasn’t really about the seeds much at all. I suppose you could say it was a story about a family, but that makes it sound boring. This isn’t some ‘normal’ family, everything is screwed up. Plus some of the people are vile, ok all of the people are pretty awful (so if you like to love your characters, this probably isn’t the one for you).

To be completely honest it’s not really very plot driven, but I really enjoyed it all the same and found myself reading it in the same sort of incessant way that I would normally only read a plot driven book in.

4.5/5

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Hardback £13.48)

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A Tale For The Time Being- Ruth Ozeki


Synopsis (from amazon)

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.

In a small cafe in Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place – and voice – through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Review

‘A Tale for the Time Being’ marks the beginning of what I am calling my return to ‘normal’ reading, ok still not completely normal for me- I’m reading one book at a time rather than two. I’d had a few single books which have held my attention since my return to blogging, but now I’ve had a bit of a run, and I hope it’s not just due to the books I have chosen. (You can read a bit about my lack of reading here). Is it ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ which made me be able to come back to my old reading levels? I’m not sure, but I do know that I enjoyed it, I do know that I wanted to read it above other activities which require less concentration (and which I had been holding my interest more than reading), and II do know that since reading it I have read a number of other books which have held my attention (which I intend to review in due course).

So, yes, I really did enjoy ‘A Tale For the Time Being’, but actually I don’t know if I have anything significant to say about it.

It did take me a little time to get into, but once I did get into it I didn’t want to stop. I especially wanted to know what had happened to Nao, and Ruth’s story helped fuel that as she got so absorbed in Nao’s story.

I liked Nao’s voice. It made subjects which were sometimes very emotional easy to read, and her story really did sounds like she was telling it to a friend who she was slowly getting to know.

I certainly recommend it. Although if you can go for a paper copy rather than an ebook, I read the ebook and all the footnotes were at the end of the book, which doesn’t really work when you can’t flick through it!

4.5/5

Buy it:
Paperback (£8.99)
Kindle (£5.29)

Hardback (£16.59)

Other reviews:

The Relentless Reader

Words for Worms (contains spoilers)

Fay Simone

As the Crowe Flies (and Reads)

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

 

 

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The Radleys- Matt Haig


Synopsis (from amazon)

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can’t sleep, can’t eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can’t go outside unless they’re smothered in Factor 50.

With a visit from their lethally louche Uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

Review

The Radley’s was on my wishlist for years, before I read The Humans, before The Humans was even released. I have a problem, I add things to my wishlist and never buy them, because when I’m in a bookshop (or to a lesser extent on an online store) I get distracted by books which are not on my wishlist, and end up buying them. I think I ended up buying The Radleys because it was on kindle deal.

I’m trying to think how to review without spoiling.

It’s somewhat of a coming of age novel, although not in a classic sense, because the thing which is making the Radley children grow up is not exactly normal. Also that there is a sort of coming of age novel for the parents too- who says you have o be a teenager to ‘come of age’?

At times it was sort of predictable, but that’s ok, I enjoyed it anyway.

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£8.99)
Kindle (£5.69)

Other reviews:

Reading With Tea

Leeswammes’ Blog

Knitting and Sundries

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

B Reading

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review

Wool Series- Hugh Howey


The Wool series consists of 3 books; Wool , Shift and Dust

Synopsis (written by me, because there isn’t just one)

Years in the future a civilization, the only survivors on earth are living in a silo. Outside the air is poison. The Wool series of books looks at how this came to be, and how things started to fall apart.

Review

Note on the review: Because I read Wool, Shift, and Dust one after the other I have decided to review them all in one go rather than as separate books. Because of this I’ve decided to use a sort of key code. Anything in black refers to all the books and isn’t a spoiler. Anything in red refers to Wool, there may be spoilers for Wool but won’t be any spoilers for previous books. Anything in green refers to Shift, it may contain spoilers for Shift or Wool. Anything in purple refers to Dust, it may contain spoilers for any of the three books.

I bought Wool (and later Shift and Dust) for my partner initially. There were quite a few reviews around at the time (I definitely remember that Ellie reviewed Dust) and I thought the books sounded good, but not quite me. These sorts of sci-fi things are more my boyfriend’s taste. However when he enjoyed it I thought I would give it a read too.

Overall I did enjoy the series although for all the books I found they started slow and after a while became more interesting. I must admit as well that I found my interest in the series overall wavered with each book, so although I fairly enjoyed Dust, it had significantly less pull than Wool did.


By the end of Wool I was really looking forward to starting Shift and seeing what happened next. My boyfriend warned me I would be somewhat disappointed, and he was right because Shift doesn’t continue on from where Wool left off, instead it jumps back to when the silos were new and gradually moves to the same time but in silo one- head silo- and how the events in Wool effect that silo.

I still enjoyed Shift by the end, it was interesting to see another side. It was also interesting how Jules almost became the enemy. Or I suppose I should say how it didn’t seem like the plans we learnt about in Wool were so bad after all. They seemed somewhat good intentioned.

I sort of wish things had stayed that way, where you can see both sides of the coin, but Dust changed it into bad plans again. I think it would have been more interesting to see Jules and silo one discussing her problems with what they were doing and maybe finding a solution.

Dust’s start was rather disappointing. It didn’t start where Wool had left off but jumped a little further forward, and I think partly because of this things were a little confusing. Jules seemed to know a lot but it was difficult to understand how she knew a lot of it. Of course I could have forgotten what exactly had happened in Wool which may have marred my impression of Shift.

 

Would I recommend the series? I don’t know. A lot of promise seems unfulfilled, but I did enjoy reading them, so maybe

3/5

Buy it:

Wool (from £4.99)
Shift (from £4.99)
Dust (from £4.99)

Other reviews:

Leeswammes’ Blog Wool | Shift

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm Wool | Shift

Quirky Bookworm Wool

The Sleepless Reader Wool

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Filed under Contempory, Dystopian, Fantasy, Fiction review, YA

The Tiger’s Wife- Téa Obreht


Synopsis (from amazon)

Natalia is on a quest: to discover the truth about her beloved grandfather. He has died far from home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.

Recalling stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia suspects he may have died trying to unravel two mysteries. One was the fate of a tiger which escaped during German bombing raids in 1941; the other a man who claimed to be immortal. But, as Natalia learns, there are no simple truths or easy answers in this landscape echoing with myths but still scarred by war.

Review

I read the first chapter of this book back in 2011 when it was in the first Waterstone’s Eleven. It went on my wishlist then, but it’s was only towards the end of last year that I actually read it.

There are four stories in this novel. That of Natalia as a child and her relationship with her Grandfather. The story of Natalia now. And the two stranger stories, those of the tiger’s wife, and the deathless man. All the stories are meant to be true, the stranger stories being stories which Natalia’s grandfather told her about his life.

The stranger stories are what make the book really. They have an almost fairytale like quality. I especially liked the tale of the deathless man because it had elements which seemed more real than that of the tiger’s wife, but they were contrasted in the idea of this man who couldn’t die. The idea of a woman falling in love with a tiger was less supernatural I suppose, it’s more how much it was believed I think that was unusual.

I did enjoy the writing in this book, however I’d find I got interested in one story only for it to stop and give way to one of the others, and then I’d stop reading because I didn’t want to read that other story. Even though I liked each story on it’s own I wasn’t ready to leave one for another, and that meant it took me a surprisingly long time to read for such a short book.

(Isn’t the new cover awesome?)

3/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£7.99)

Kindle (£4.99)

Other reviews:

Word by Word

Lit and Life

Nose in a Book

Page Turners

Literary Lindsey

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical, Literary

Look Who’s Back- Timur Vermes


Synopsis (from amazon)

Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

Review

This book has had some controversy. Mainly focusing about is it right to write a humorous book about Hitler? I think the main problem people see in it is that it sort of makes light of Hitler and in doing so somehow makes light of what he did.

I think the people who say this miss the point somewhat however. It’s a book about Hitler in the basics, but really it’s more about the media and how life now views Hitler. He’s seen as a sort of spectacle. Think of all the tourist destinations which wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for Hitler. Is this about the point of not forgetting so it can’t happen again? Or is it more of a morbid curiosity or some sort of extended rubbernecking?

I think it shows how something similar could happen again. Hitler in this book became known and famous. Maybe he would never have been taken seriously as a politician, but the start of it was there. It does make me think somewhat of the popularity of people like Trump, many people are against him, but he also has a certain amount of support- and that could be dangerous.

On the surface this is a humorous book, and it did make me laugh. You could probably read it just as an entertaining read if you wanted to. If you didn’t feel the need to justify it.

It won’t be for everyone. I know it’s something that could offend. I understand why. But I liked it.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£6.29)

Kindle (£4.99)

Hardback (£13.49)

Other reviews:

Plastic Rosaries

Did I miss your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical, Humour

The Thirteenth Tale- Diane Setterfield


Synopsis (from goodreads)

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once the imposing home of the March family–fascinating, manipulative Isabelle, Charlie her brutal and dangerous brother, and the wild, untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline. But Angelfield House conceals a chilling secret whose impact still resonates…

Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield’s past–and the mystery of the March family starts to unravel. What has Angelfield been hiding? What is its connection with the enigmatic author Vida Winter? And what is it in Margaret’s own troubled past that causes her to fall so powerfully under Angelfield’s spell?

Review

I read The Thirteenth Tale so long ago now that I had to read the synopsis just to remind myself what happened (I don’t like this synopsis by the way, but I don’t think I can write a better one so I decided to lump with it, it’s the same as amazon’s, except that it doesn’t mention the film). All I could really remember is that I didn’t want to include it as a short review because I felt (still feel) it deserved more than that.

This book sat on my wishlist for a long time after I read lots of positive blog posts about it, then it sat for a long time on my to be read pile. It may have sat their for longer if I hadn’t read Bellman and Black as a review request.

It was better than Bellman and Black too. They both had that gothic element which I love, and a certain mystery to them. Plus a element of the past effecting the future. The main different with this general background was that for William (of Bellman and Black) it’s his own past which effects him, and for Margret it’s more Vida’s past which effects her.

The story takes part during a two time periods, there is the past story of the twins at Angelfield, told in a rather detached way by Vida Winter, and the current story of Margret as she hears Vida’s story and makes her own investigations, as she has been commissioned by Vida to write her biography. At least initially Vida’s story is the most engaging, however the further we get into the story the more the two stories become entwined.

Trapped up in Vida’s big empty house, having nothing to do except listen to Vida’s story makes Margret rather crazy, understandably. (A classic of gothic literature, think Jane Eyre trapped in Thornfield, with all those noises, and the strange maid, and unexplainable fires…you get the idea) But how much is Margret imagining? How much is real? Is she just being effected by Vida’s story? By her own past? Or is there something more to it?

Vida’s own story has the aura of a gothic mystery too. All the way through you are trying to work out what actually happened in Angelfield, just as Margret is.

There was an added little story which I didn’t really think was that necessary to the story. I’m not sure it added all that much either, although it did create a bit of a twist in the tale which I suppose was good, if a little over the top.

It got me guessing right up to the end.

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.99)

Kindle (£3.66)

Other Reviews:

The Book Musings

Books at Violet Crush

HeavenAli

The Perpetual Page Turner

Reading With Tea

Alison Mccarthy

Words For Worms (Discussion, contains spoilers)

Have I missed your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Mystery

Godsquad- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Disclaimmer: This book was given to me free of charge (by the author) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

The Team:
Joan of Arc, the armour-plated teen saint of Orleans.
Francis of Assisi, friend to all the animals whether they like it or not.
St Christopher, the patron saint of travel who by papal decree has never existed – no matter how much he argues otherwise.

The Mission: An impossible prayer has been received by Heaven and it’s a prayer that only Mary, Mother of God, can answer. Unfortunately, Mary hasn’t been seen in decades and is off wandering the Earth somewhere. This elite team of Heavenly saints are sent down to Earth to find Mary before Armageddon is unleashed on an unsuspecting world.

Godsquad:
A breathless comedy road trip from Heaven to France and all points in-between featuring murderous butchers, a coachload of Welsh women, flying portaloos, nuclear missiles, giant rubber dragons, an army of dogs, a very rude balloon and way too much French wine.

Review

Godsquad is the fourth book in the Clovenhoof series. However it’s rather differ to Clovenhoof and Pigeonwings and can easily be read as a stand alone novel. It contains some of the same characters as the pervious books but they have been relatively minor characters before. It contains neither Satan or Gabriel.

I always rather liked Joan of Arc in the previous books so I was looking forward to seeing more of her, but on the other hand I found Francis of Assisi annoying- so wasn’t so much looking forward to seeing more of him.

In terms of action and adventure Godsquad did seem to promise more than either of the previous two books, so I found myself a little disappointed that the action didn’t get started earlier. It was somewhat interesting to see the saints adapting to modern life, but we have seen a lot of that in previous books and it might have been nice to have something different.

However when the action did get going I did find in very engaging, and the second portion of the book went very quickly for me.

I still really liked Joan of Arc by the end- more so if possible, and Francis of Assisi had grown on me too- although there are still annoying elements to him, and I liked Christopher too.

I found Mary to be a rather amusing character. Feminist, anarchist, anti-capitalist, but pretty much clueless really- that’s why she was amusing.

In fact on reflection I think it may be my favourite in the series.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.99)

Paperback (£8.99)

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Humour

Ajax Penumbra: 1969- Robin Sloan


Synopsis (from amazon)

San Francisco, 1969. The summer of drugs, music and a new age dawning. A young, earnest Ajax Penumbra has been given his first assignment as a Junior Acquisitions Officer – to find the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. After a few weeks of rigorous hunting, Penumbra feels no closer to his goal than when he started. But late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles upon a 24-hour bookstore and the possibilities before him expand exponentially. With the help of his friend’s homemade computer, an ancient map, a sunken ship and the vast shelves of the 24-hour bookstore, Ajax Penumbra might just find what he’s seeking…

Review

Ajax Penumbra 1969 is the prequel to Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, it can be read alone with no problems, but I think those who have read the sequel first would probably get more out of it.

I must admit I actually think I prefered this one to the sequel. It certainly was quicker to get going, but then it was a short story- so I suppose there wasn’t much time for ‘faffing’.

It was interesting to see how Penumbra started, and his job sounded like a great job! I found his adventure more interesting than the adventure in the sequel too, although I would have liked to see more of his early days in the bookstore.

I came out of it liking Penumbra as a character much more too. He had interested me before, but we didn’t really get to know him.

I would like to know if they really did sink ships in San Francisco and build on top of them.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.89)

Hardback (£6.39)

 

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

The Guest Cat- Takashi Hiraide


Synopsis (from amazon)

A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo. They work at home as freelance writers. They no longer have very much to say to one another.

One day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. She is a beautiful creature. She leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. New, small joys accompany the cat; the days have more light and colour. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife; they go walking together, talk and share stories of the cat and its little ways, play in the nearby Garden. But then something happens that will change everything again.

Review

The Guest Cat is a beautiful book in the same sort of was that The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly was a beautiful book. It had a simplicity which some may find boring, but the writing made it beautiful.

I liked the descriptions of the cat, she was so playful, and just generally cute.

Hiraide is a poet, and you can tell.

If you’re looking for a story which will race on this isn’t for you. But if you want something more relaxed and everyday, you’ll probably enjoy it. It’s the sort of story to read on a lazy Sunday afternoon

4/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£5.59)

Kindle (£3.59)

Other Reviews:

Wensend

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Literary

Pigeonwings- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Pigeonwings is the follow-up novel to Clovenhoof.

Synopsis (from amazon)

As punishment for his part in an attempted coup in Heaven, the Archangel Michael is banished to Earth. The holiest of the angelic host has to learn to live as a mortal, not an easy job when you’ve got Satan as a next-door neighbour.

Michael soon finds that being a good person involves more than helping out at Sunday school and attending church coffee mornings. He has to find his purpose in life, deal with earthly temptations and solve a mystery involving some unusual monks and a jar of very dangerous jam.

Heide Goody and Iain Grant have written a wild comedy that features spear-wielding cub scouts, accidental transvestites, King Arthur, a super-intelligent sheepdog, hallucinogenic snacks, evil peacocks, old ladies with biscuits, naked paintball, stolen tractors, clairvoyant computers, the Women’s Institute, and way too much alcohol.

Review

This book follows on from Clovenhoof but his time instead of focusing on Satan it focuses on the Archangel Michael who has recently been banished from Heaven.

It was my first read of 2014 (and I’m only now writing the review!) and it was a fun way to start the year

I must admit I didn’t enjoy Pigeonwings as much as I enjoyed Clovenhoof, Michael just wasn’t as exciting as a character.

Having said that there were more topics which verged on the serious, as Michael fried to re-establish his relationship with God, something which he had taken for granted before. It was interesting to see him explore faith in different ways, and finding how difficult it can seem for a human to have a relationship with God.

Ultimately though it was still funny, and there waa less dark humour than there was in Clovenhoof, which I personally am not a big fan of anyway. I think it was less funny overall though as well.

There was the mystery side of it which I liked however.

I’m looking forward to the next one which is due out later this year.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.99)

 

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Humour

How to Build a Girl- Caitlin Moran


Synopsis (from amazon)

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes – and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde – fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer – like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes – but without the dying young bit.

By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Review

Some books you want to review as soon as you’ve finished them, you don’t want to wait for all the feelings and thoughts to fall out of your head. How to Make a Girl was one of these books, so I moved it to the top of my review pile (despite the fact that I still have reviews of books I read in 2014 that I need to write). Unfortunately I couldn’t actually write the review straight away, so I hope my thoughts are still clear enough.

I was excited to read something of Caitlin Moran’s after basically having a girl crush on her after reading How to Be a Woman (don’t ask me how I haven’t managed to read Moranology yet, it’s a mystery to me). I must admit though I had my doubts about How to Build a Girl, it seemed basically to be an autobiography pretending to be fiction (a bit like Stephen Fry’s Moab is my Washpot and The Liar, which I still confuse).

There are a lot of similarities between Caitlin’s life and Johanna. They both grew up in Wolverhampton. They both had Irish fathers who were once in bands but now had some sort of problem causing them pain. They both had large families. They both had early jobs writing for music magazines. They even both won awards for writing before they entered the world of work. Oh and they both had a slightly goth look.

So you can see why I was wondering how much more was based on Caitlin’s life. At times it even distracted me from the story itself, especially early on. It didn’t help that Johanna had a very similar voice to Caitlin too.

One thing I like about Moran is that she’s so forthright. She’ll say whatever she’s thinking, not worrying about embarrassing herself or others.  I admire her for it. Johanna is the same. Although I think more with Johanna I didn’t want to know, maybe because for a good chunk of the book she was a teenager. In a sense I would say this is a YA book, I could certainly see myself connecting with Johanna at the beginning of the story, in some ways at least. However I can see it not being a hit with parents due to how frank it is. There’s little in there I don’t think the average teen would know, but I think it’s the way it’s put across too. I don’t really want to go into too much detail here, but if you have listened to Lily Allen’s album ‘Sheezus’ it’s a similar sort of frankness (listen here, beware explicit), you can probably guess just by looking at the titles in fact.

I did really like How to Build a Girl in the end though. I loved Johanna, even if she made me cringe at times at her decisions, and at her cluelessness when she seemed so ‘grown-up’. She seemed fairly realistic, if a bit of a teenagers dream. The ending was satisfying but did seem to lead to more. Apparently there are two more books to come, which I would be interested to read too.

4/5

Buy it:

Hardback (£10.49)

Kindle (£9.42)

Paperback- pre-order (£6.39)

Other Reviews:

Sam Still Reading

Lit and Life

Nylon Admiral –start of a readalong

As the Crowe Flies (And Reads) – also start of a read-a-long

Have I missed your review? Post a link in comments and I will add it here

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, YA

The Casual Vacancy- J.K. Rowling


Synopsis (from Amazon)

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Review

It’s taken me a long time to actually get around to buying and reading The Casual Vacancy. I love the Harry Potter books so I had some reservations when it came to J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel. What prompted me to actually read it was the series starting on TV, I wanted to read the book before I watched it (and I managed it, just!).

When it comes down to it you probably can’t get much further away from Harry. You probably wouldn’t even know that The Casual Vacancy was by the same author unless you’re a Potter addict who can spot J.K’s style. I can’t help comparing to Potter but it’s not really comparable. If you are looking for something with magic, or something exciting, or something fast paced you won’t get it with The Casual Vacancy.

The Casual Vacancy, you see, is not plot driven, it barely has a plot at all to be perfectly honest. It is more of a study of the characters. That means that despite the characters being very flawed you come to care at least somewhat, even whilst not liking most of them. Probably the most likeable character was Kay, she cared, but she was weak. Krystal was probably the standout character though, at least for me. She was caustic, but I admired her (note admired, not liked). I can’t imagine being friends with any of these people, but they are real.

It took me a long time to get into the book, you need to be prepared to wait, to take the time. There was enough to keep me going, until I realised that it was sort of like a soap (you know how in soaps there are no ‘normal’ families, they all have these ‘issues’). I suppose it’s meant to be a sort of ‘you never know what goes on behind closed doors’ type of thing, but it did put me off a little.

The ending hooked me though, one of those stay up for just one more paragraph/page/chapter type things. I hear that the TV series has changed the ending. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

A lot of people have criticised how much sex and bad language J.K has used in A Casual Vacancy. There is a lot, but I don’t think it’s completely unnecessary. People have been saying that it’s J.K’s way of saying she can write adult fiction. I think that makes her sound like a former child star who does a nude photo shoot to show that they are ‘all grown up’ (because of course becoming a woman automatically makes you a sex object). I don’t see it like that. People swear, people have sex. Can it be realistic if you make it all family friendly? Life isn’t always family friendly.

I intend to write something about the first episode of The Casual Vacancy later in the week.

3.5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£3.85)

Kindle (£3.66)

Hardback (£13.60)

Other Reviews:

Book Jay

Words For Worms

The Eye of Loni’s Storm

Alison McCarthy

Reading With Tea

Recovering Potter Addict

So Many Books, So Little Time

Sam Still Reading

Mama Kucing Reviews and Ravings

Heavenali

Nishita’s Rants and Ravings

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Literary

Tampa- Alissa Nutting


Synopsis (from amazon)

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She is attractive. She drives a red Corvette. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed and devoted to her. But Celeste has a secret. She has a singular sexual obsession – fourteen-year-old boys. It is a craving she pursues with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought.

Within weeks of her first term at a new school, Celeste has lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web – car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods. It is bliss.

Celeste must constantly confront the forces threatening their affair – the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind. But the insatiable Celeste is remorseless. She deceives everyone, is close to no one and cares little for anything but her pleasure.

Review

It feels kind of wrong to get any sort of enjoyment out of Tampa, but I did enjoy it, or at least found it interesting.

Celeste is like no character I have ever read before. You couldn’t get much further away from a likeable character.

It was interesting though. She is like an addict. I suppose you can say she is an addict. She will do pretty much anything to get teenage boys, take all sorts of risks. She knows it’s ‘wrong’ but she can’t help herself, and she doesn’t really care.

It is quite graphic in parts, as you would expect I suppose. It’s interesting her approach to sex though, and the different ways similar events can be written. When she has sex with the boys you can tell that’s it’s pleasurable for her. Whereas you can see that she is disgusted by the same acts with her husband.

It is pretty well written. Whilst not likeable, Celeste is pretty engaging, and believable (which is just whole other reason for the book to make you feel uncomfortable).

It is worth reading, but it’s probably not for everyone.

I noticed when looking up amazon links that the paperback cover of Tampa has changed to something less rude looking (although technically the old cover wasn’t rude). See it over there->

3.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.19)

Paperback (£6.39)

Other Reviews:

Giraffe Days

Roof Beam Reader

Did I miss your review? Leave me a link in comments.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

Trains and Lovers- Alexander McCall-Smith


Foreword

It was National Handwriting Day on Friday, I only found out about it yesterday, so I decided to pay my tribute a little late. I’ve decided to write a review as in actually handwrite it. I like handwriting, it helps me to think. I don’t like how little I do it.

I’m doing copying bits (links to buy, synopsis, hyperlinks) in typing, and I will transcribe afterwards in case you can’t, or don’t want to, read my handwriting.

Oh and I apologise for any misspellings- handwriting has no inbuilt dictionary.

Synopsis (from amazon)

In the words of Alexander McCall Smith: ‘You feel the rocking of the train, you hear the sound of its wheels on the rails; you are in the world rather than suspended somewhere above it. And sometimes there are conversations to be had, which is what the overarching story in this collection is all about. It is a simple device: people brought together entertain one another with tales of what happened to them on trains. It takes place on a journey I frequently make myself and know well, the journey between Edinburgh and London. It is best read on a train, preferably that one.’

 photo review_zpscf65102c.jpeg
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Buy it on amazon:

Paperback (£6.27)

Kindle (£4.87)

Hardcover (£8.99)

Transcript

So here goes. The review.

I decided to write a review of ‘Trains and Lovers’ as my handwritten review because I don’t actually have much to say on it. With the fact that handwriting takes longer than typing, plus me wanting to type it up, I don’t want to have to write lots. (Although I probably will end up writing as much with all this explanation)

‘Trains and Lovers’ is a bit different from the other McCall-Smith books I’ve read. To be fair the others have been detective novels- No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and one of the Isabel Dalhousie books. There’s less to figure out- which you would, of course, expect seeing as it’s more of a romance novel. Although McCall-Smith can’t quite resist, there is one story which has a bit of a mystery to it.

It has the same ‘nice-ness’ which I would expect from McCall-Smith, but it’s sweeter. There’s a certain poetry, which probably replaces most of the humour which I would have expected. I liked that.

I also liked that it was real. The stories were not great ‘perfect’ romances, or a rehash of Pride and Prejudice (as so much chick-lit is). They were romantic in an everyday was, no grand gestures. They were romances I could believe, and in a sense that makes them more inspirational than ‘great’ love stories.

I think I likes this more more than I realised. Writing this has made me look at things differently.

3.5/5

 

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Romantic

Texts From Jane Eyre- Mallory Ortberg.


Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book (from the US publisher) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (my own- for once!)

Texts From Jane Eyre is a collection of text conversations between various (generally famous) literary characters and writers.

Review

I’m rushing through my notable books in my backlog of reviews because I want reviews of the ones I might mention in my review of the year. I’m doing this one first partly because I really enjoyed it, and partly because I bought it for my sister for Christmas so I had been waiting to write it.

This is my most recommended book currently (although since finishing How to be a Heroine over Christmas that may overtake it). I recommended it on both my Book Blogger Holiday Card Exchange cards, and I bought it for my sister (I ordered it from The Book Depository because it’s not out over here yet).

Actually when I was first sent the offer of an advanced copy of this I was unsure. Sometimes these types of things can be more annoying than funny, but then I read some reviews and realised I had to say yes. I’m so glad I did.

It was funny. Especially when I knew the writers or characters. In fact the only bad thing about it really is that a lot of the humour is lost if you haven’t read the books in question.

My favourite bits were the Poe sections:

“whoa
I wasn’t LOOKING at a bird
wow where is this even coming from?
the BIRD
wouldn’t stop LOOKING
at ME”

and the William Blake sections:

“Is it a picture of someone being flayed?”

“Well

sort of

I mean they’re already flayed but they’re not getting flayed

it’s not like a double flaying

ooh wait

hang on”

It’s a good flick through book too, so probably better in the physical book format. That is a problem with kindle books, no good for flicking.

Basically anyone who likes books should appreciate it, and should read it.

4.5/5

Buy it from amazon:

Hardback pre-order (£14.99) – released November 2015

Buy it from The Book Depository:

Hardback (£11.00)

Other Reviews:

So…I know I had said I read reviews on a load of blogs, but apparently none of these bloggers have put them on goodreads, and feedly doesn’t allow me to search (unless I pay..booo!), so if you have written one please put a link in comments and I will add it here.

5 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Humour

Circ- Various Authors


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge (by the publisher) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Razvan Popescu lives in a flat overlooking the seaside town of Skegness. He keeps himself to himself and few know the man at all. Even fewer know his past, which he has tried to leave behind in the Romanian woods.

But when a tattooed man is found murdered on the beach, it is clear that some of that past has followed him to this tacky seaside town. As battle erupts within the criminal fraternity, dark forces gather around the town and Popescu’s acquaintances find themselves dragged into a world of violence, fire and fairy tales.

One thing is certain: the circus has come to town.

Ten To One is a novel writing project in which ten authors write a novel together, seeking the approval of a judging panel and a public vote to keep their character in the story.

Circ, the first Ten To One novel, is written by Simon Fairbanks, Maria Mankin, Yasmin Ali, Jason Holloway, Livia Akstein Vioto, Luke Beddow, Danielle Rose Bentley, William Thirsk-Gaskill, Sue Barsby and Giselle Thompson.

Review

The main reason I agreed to review this book is because of the concept. I was interested to see how a story could be pulled off with so many different authors, when the author changed not just from chapter to chapter but within chapters. And where nobody really knew where the story was going t go, because they didn’t know when they would loose different stories. Of course it would mean working together, and knowing each others plans for the characters.

I had had the concern that the story wouldn’t be very cohesive, that the writing styles of the different authors would be too different. It gelled much better than I had dared hope though. The first chapter, admittedly, took me about the same amount of time to read as the rest of the book as a whole. I think that was just because so many characters needed to be introduced, it was a lot to be crammed into one chapter. From the second chapter on however things continued to get better, until I was enthralled by the end.

As you would expect from a novel where characters were voted out some stories remained somewhat unfinished, and I would have liked to see what would have happened to some of the characters later. I think that shows good writing though, that I became interested in the characters.

The story itself was sometimes a little strange, which may be due to the nature of the peculiar writing process. However it was exciting, and had a lot of twists (not shocking really as even the authors could be sure what they would get). It kept me reading, and at times on the edge of my seat.

I am interested to find out more about the writing process, so to that end I’m hoping to get to the Separated By a Common Language event to see what I can find.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£3.09)

Paperback (£7.99)

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Crime, Fiction review

Clovenhoof- Heide Goody and Iain Grant


Synopsis (from amazon)

Charged with gross incompetence, Satan is fired from his job as Prince of Hell and exiled to that most terrible of places: English suburbia. Forced to live as a human under the name of Jeremy Clovenhoof, the dark lord not only has to contend with the fact that no one recognises him or gives him the credit he deserves but also has to put up with the bookish wargamer next door and the voracious man-eater upstairs.

Heaven, Hell and the city of Birmingham collide in a story that features murder, heavy metal, cannibalism, armed robbers, devious old ladies, Satanists who live with their mums, gentlemen of limited stature, dead vicars, petty archangels, flamethrowers, sex dolls, a blood-soaked school assembly and way too much alcohol.

Review

Clovenhoof was one of the books I got at the Birmingham Independent Book Fair (I also got the sequel, Pigeonwings, which I haven’t yet read). My boyfriend read it before me and compared it to Good Omens (which I haven’t read), a book he had enjoyed. He was excited to see where I was whilst reading it too.

It was a funny, and quite light read. It was interesting how the reader was made sympathetic to Satan, to even like him, and to dislike the angel Michael. It should really be the other way round, shouldn’t it?

I suppose in a way it shows how bureaucracy has good intentions, but sometimes you have to break the rules so that things will work, and some rules are more important than others. Or even that sometimes old rules loose their importance as things change. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a bit of a serious message which you can read into Clovenhoof.

There’s also a bit of a message about there really being no absolute good or evil, because something meant for good can have bad consequences, and things meant for bad can have good consequences.

You don’t have to make it serious though, you can just read it as a funny story about the devil having to live on earth.

Plus it’s sent in Birmingham, it’s always nice when a story is set somewhere you know.

There’s a great twist at the end too.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.00)

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Humour

The Forgotten Daughter- Renita D’Silva


Synopsis (from amazon)

‘You were adopted’. Three simple words, in a letter accompanying her parent’s will, tear Nisha’s carefully ordered world apart. Raised in England, by her caring but emotionally reserved parents, Nisha has never been one to take risks. Now, with the scrawled address of an Indian convent begins a search for the mother and family she never knew and the awakening of childhood memories long forgotten. The secrets, culture and people that Nisha discover will change her life forever. And, as her eyes are opened to a side of herself she didn’t know existed, Nisha realizes that she must also seek answers to the hardest question of all – why?

Review

The Forgotten Daughter is one of those books which is written in different voices. Obviously the voice of Nisha, but also a girl called Devi and a woman called Shilpa. The three woman are (as you would expect) linked, but initially the reader does not know why.

I’m not sure I liked the three narrator part of this. Whilst I enjoyed reading each character, and there were times when one character’s story would take over another’s in my mind it did mean that the reader knew more, and I think that made the emotions pack less of a punch at times. However it did more of a context which made the story more interesting, and meant you could have up to three cliffhangers at a time.

It was a fairly easy read, and exciting enough for me to wan to read it. However it was fairly predictable and at times a little far fetched

3.5/5

Buy from amazon:

Kindle (£1.59)

Paperback (£9.99)

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Larger Than Life- Jodi Picoult


Synopsis (from amazon)

Alice is a researcher studying memory in elephants, and is fascinated by the bonds between mother and calf – the mother’s powerful protective instincts and her newborn’s unwavering loyalty. Living on a game reserve in Botswana, Alice is able to view the animals in their natural habitat, as long as she obeys one important rule: she must only observe and never interfere.

Then she finds an orphaned young elephant in the bush and cannot bear to leave the helpless baby behind. Alice will risk her career to care for the calf. Yet what she comes to understand is the depth of a parent’s love.

Review

Larger Than Life is another one of Jodi Picoult’s Kindle Singles. This time it is based around a character her up and coming novel Leaving Time.

It’s probably the best of her kindle singles which I have read (I have also read The Color War, and Where There’s Smoke). I think it stands quite well as it’s own story, and fits ok as a short story. I still wanted more (as I tend to with short stories) but it was good whilst it lasted, and I didn’t really feel like there needed to be more.

It was a cute little story. The main focus was the baby elephant, and that was really all it needed, it was sweet to imagine and I enjoyed Alice’s interactions and thoughts around the elephant.

There was also a romance element, which I had anticipated early on, and which was nice, but maybe unneeded.

4/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.49)

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Short story

The Silkworm- Robert Galbraith


The Silkworm is the second book in the Cormoran Strike series

Synopsis (from amazon)

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

Review

After really enjoying the first Cormoran Strike book I was rather excited for the second. In terms of excitement it was probably a bit higher than The Cuckoo’s Calling, although it took a little longer to set off. However it missed a certain something which The Cuckoo’s Calling had, something which I struggle to put my finger on, but which made the book less easily readable.

Maybe it was that in The Cuckoo’s Calling Cormoran was working completely on his own theories. As far as the police were concerned it was s done deal- as it were, whereas in this one Cormoran was still trying very much to work on his own and use the same theories but he was investigating something a the same time as the police. It felt more like he was snubbing the police, and that he didn’t think they were good enough. He could have worked with them but he kept information from them. I get that he was being paid a fee, and I get that they didn’t agree on certain elements, but maybe if a bit of information sharing went on there would have been able to work together.

He was certainly still clever, and Robin was still very much his right-hand woman. There were still lots of twists and turns. It still kept me on the edge of my seat. I still really enjoyed it. There was a certain sense of ‘this is an adult novel’ about it. There was a particularly graphic scene, which did add something to the story, but was also rather brutal. There was lots of sex, which didn’t always add something.

4/5

Buy it from an Indie store (via Hive):

Hardback (£15.60)

On CD (£25.18)

Buy it from amazon:

Kindle (£6.99)

Hardback (£9.99)

Other Reviews:

Alison McCarthy

Recovering Potter Addict

Mama Kucing Books and Ravings

The Eye of Loni’s Storm

 

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Filed under Contempory, Crime, Fiction review

The Humans- Matt Haig


Synopsis (from amazon)

After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he is not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confound him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog.

What could possibly make someone change their mind about the human race. . . ?

Review

The trailer for The Humans is the only book trailer I have ever seen which has convinced me that I want to read a book. (As a general rule I don’t like book trailers, I don’t see why people would want pictures to promote something which is about words).

Haig was already on my radar. The Radleys has been on my wishlist for years (yes again my problem with not buying from my wishlist strikes) and I’ve read a few of his (rather entertaining) blog posts, so I expected entertaining novels too.

Haig’s style of writing is quite similar to Nick Hornby, or Danny Wallace. It’s easy to read, and conversational. However it’s not without its emotion, as easy to read things can tend to be as they strive to be entertaining.

In it’s own way The Humans was actually quite deep. A sort of ode to what it is to be human. How it is great. How it isn’t.

There are lots of things wrong with humanity, but does that mean that there are lots of things wrong with humans?

It’s a funny, sweet, and charming book, and an easy read.

4/5

Buy it:

From an indie store (via Hive):

Paperback (£6.97)

E-book (£7.18)

From amazon:

Paperback (£3.50)

Kindle (£2.69)

Hardback (£19.05)

Other reviews:

Blog A Book Etc

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

6 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Sci-Fi

The Color War- Jodi Picoult


Synopsis (from amazon)

All Raymond wants to do is hang out with his best friend, Monroe, but life has other plans. This summer, his mother has decided to send him to Bible camp for inner-city kids. On the bus there, he dreams of the best night of his life, when he and Monroe slipped away from home and jumped the turnstiles to ride the subway to downtown Boston on New Year’s Eve. The elaborate ice sculptures on display thrilled them, especially an angel with outstretched wings that glowed ghostly in the night. Raymond wakes on the bus to what he takes for another angel: Melody, a camp counselor and lifeguard. Like all the staff, she’s white. Pretty, blond, and friendly, she’s the person Raymond most wants to impress during the Color War, the camp’s sports competition, and to whom he confesses his most painful secret, a loss that has made him grow up far too fast and left him wise beyond his mere nine years.

Review

I’ve read a few of Picoult’s kindle singles now. Apparently I didn’t bother reviewing Where There’s Smoke, and I have Larger Than Life on the list waiting for review.

I can’t remember why I decided not to review Where There’s Smoke, maybe I was waiting for the book it was based on to come out?

Either way The Color War  is probably the one I liked the least of the three. It had good areas, or I suppose interesting areas. It didn’t really work for me in terms of a short story however. Too many big issues which needed a ‘proper’ book. Maybe not a long one, but more than the few pages you get with a kindle single (according to goodreads The Color War has 34 pages). If it had to be a shorter story then there should have been less in it. Have the major event, or something to do with Raymond’s emotions after. As it was it was too sketchy.

Plus unlike both of Picoult’s other kindle singles which I’ve read The Color War is stand alone, so you can’t hope to get more from reading the book which it is connected to.

2/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.81)

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Short story

The Shock of the Fall- Nathan Filer


Note: This book is sold as ‘Where the Moon Isn’t’ in the US

Synopsis (from amazon)

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

 

Review

Two things before I start:

1) I wrote a copy of this post I was really happy with, then it got eaten by wordpress 😦

2) After writing my first version of this review I read Ellie’s review. Ellie suggested that to reveal what Matt’s illness was would be a bit of a spoiler, because it would give you pre-conceived ideas of what Matt was like. When I thought about it I could see where she was coming from, but my review was too much based on his condition to avoid mentioning what it was. Therefore I have blanked out everytime I have written the name of Matt’s condition, and put brackets around it. If you want to know what the illness is just highlight between the brackets. The review should still make sense missing this word out.

Okay, on to the review.

You can tell that The Shock of The Fall is written by someone with experience of mental health, the voice of Matt sounds very authentic. His mental health condition seems realistic too, it is not unknown for a serious emotional event (such as the death of a brother) to trigger (schizophrenia), and it is often part of what will make up the (schizophrenic) episodes too. What makes it even more authentic is that it is narrated by Matt himself. It’s not like seeing a (schizophrenic) episode, where it can be quite obvious that the person is unwell. You can rarely be 100% sure if what Matt is experiencing is ‘real’ or part of his illness.

Matt’s family are obviously important to him. They are like his rock. The way he talks about his Nan, and , most notably, Simon shows how much he loves them. They are both easily the most likeable characters. Matt himself? Maybe not likeable, but that works. If he was more likeable it would make the story less realistic, because of the ways he sees himself.

I do wonder a bit if Filer is having a bit of a bash at the government for it’s cuts to the NHS. An important thing which happens in the book is caused by budget cuts, and is one of the things which gets cut in reality too. On the day I originally wrote this review there had been a piece on radio 4 about how the waiting times for talking therapies are effecting patients. According to a study by We Need to Talk 1 in 6 patients awaiting treatment attempt suicide. To have to wait at all is pretty bad, but it really shouldn’t get to this state. For someone with mental health difficulties to ask for help is often the first step towards getting better. It’s like taking one step on a stair and finding a wall in the way, isn’t the easiest option to step back?

Sorry this has turned into somewhat of a political rant.

The Shock of the Fall was the winner of the Costa Prize. It’s what prompted me to look at it, but it still is the sort of thing that I would have wanted to read. Was it worth the prize? Maybe. I’m not sure I would say it has literary greatness (whatever that is…). It’s too…conversational, but actually in terms of readability and reader connection that makes a good book, for me at least.

In the US The Shock of the Fall is renamed to Where the Moon isn’t. Why? I don’t know (maybe I could find out). I’m not sure I like it though. The Shock of the Fall seems like a strange name to start off with. However when you finish it seems like a pretty perfect name. I won’t say why, spoilers. Where the Moon Isn’t sort of fits though. You know what they say about the moon and mental illness.

4/5

Buy it:

From an indie store (via Hive):

Paperback (£6.97)

E-book (£3.99)

Buy from amazon:

Kindle (£2.99)

Paperback (£3.85)- Part of the 3 for £10 promotion

Hardback (£14.94)- As ‘Where The Moon Isn’t’

Other reviews:

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Thought Scratchings

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Psychology (fiction)

The Cuckoo’s Calling- Robert Galbraith


Synopsis (from amazon)

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case.

Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger . . .

Review

Ok, everyone know it, but we can’t not mention it can we? Robert Galbraith is J.K Rowling. She always said she wanted to have a pen name and write crime after Harry Potter.

Would I have read it if I didn’t know it was J.K. Rowling? Probably not. For one thing until it was leaked that The Cuckoo’s Calling was written by J.K it wasn’t an especially well known book, for another I don’t read that much crime.

The person who ‘discovered’ the truth said that it was because they could recognise J.K’s style of writing. I certainly could see her style, especially in the opening to The Cuckoo’s Calling. I don’t know if I would have noticed if I didn’t already know Galbraith and Rowling were one and the same, however. Unless I approached every crime novel released post-Harry as having the potential to be written by J.K

One more thing, before I get to the actual review. I kept hearing an Audible advert for The Cuckoo’s Calling on Spotify before I read this. Anyone else find that really off putting? It almost made me not want to read it.

I did like The Cuckoo’s Calling, you know. It was rather compulsive reading. There were lots of twists, and the end was unpredictable, I might even go as far as to says it seemed impossible…except it wasn’t! It’s rather memorable too, I was trying to think of what I wanted to write in this review (I’m about 10 books behind…I think I need a bloggiesta…), and little bits kept resurfacing in my memory- although nothing specific that I want to mention.

There was one little thing that annoyed me. There were moments when strange specifics were put in, like the names of pubs, or even the beer that Cormoran was drinking, they weren’t important to the story, maybe they were meant to make things more authentic, but I began to think that the series had been sponsored by Doom Bar (and I can tell you it doesn’t stop in The Silkworm either)

4/5

Buy it from an Indie Store (via Hive):

Paperback (£7.11)

Hardback (£12.75)

 Buy it from amazon:

Kindle (£2.79)

Paperback (£3.85)

Hardback (£14.95)

Other reviews:

Recovering Potterholic

The Eye of Loni’s Storm

Quirky Bookworm

Alison McCarthy

Books By Rotten

8 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Crime, Fiction review

The Forgotten Sister- Jennifer Paynter


Synopsis (from amazon)

As a middle child flanked by two pairs of closely bonded sisters, marginalized by her mother, and ridiculed by her father, Mary Bennet feels isolated within her own family. She retreats to her room to read and play the pianoforte and, when obliged to mix in society, finds it safer to quote platitudes from books rather than express her real opinions. She also finds it safer to befriend those who are socially “beneath” her. When wealthy Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley glide into her sisters’ lives, Mary becomes infatuated with an impoverished young musician, the son of her old wet-nurse, who plays the fiddle at the Meryton assemblies.

It is only after her sisters tease her about her “beau with the bow” that Mary is forced to examine her real feelings and confront her own brand of pride and prejudice.

Review

I liked the idea of The Forgotten Sister. Mary Bennet is a pretty marginalised character in Pride and Prejudice (so is Kitty, she is basically Lydia’s shadow), but I wonder what makes her so much different from her sisters.

Paynter tries to address this problem, and she does, to a point. However she makes the other sisters (especially Elizabeth) seem pretty horrible in turn, and that just doesn’t seem canon to me. Surely if Elizabeth really disliked Mary that would come up in Pride and Prejudice itself?

For a long time I didn’t really like Mary, although by the end I did. Actually it sort of reminded me of Little Women, but with just one main character. The end didn’t seem quite to fit with the rest of the story either. Mary didn’t seem so much like Mary from it, or at least the Mary of the rest of the story. However I did get more into the story by the end, so I was enjoying it, despite inconsistency.

I think a problem with writing sequels to books by other authors is that it’s hard to get the tone right, and (especially with well known books like Pride and Prejudice) everybody already has their own ideas, and their own like and dislikes about the original book- which are hard not to hit on when another person writes about a book.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£3.49)

Paperback (£6.57)

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical

Just Destiny- Theresa Rizzo


Disclaimer: I was sent this books free of charge, by the author, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

What would you do if your whole world fell apart?
Jenny Harrison made some poor choices in the past, but marrying Gabe was the best thing she’d ever done. They had the perfect marriage, until a tragic accident leaves Gabe brain dead and her world in ruins.
Devastated by grief, she decides to preserve the best of their love by conceiving his child, but Gabe’s family is adamantly opposed, even willing to chance exposing long-held family secrets to stop her. Caught in a web of twisted motives and contentious legal issues, Jenny turns to best friend and attorney, Steve Grant. Steve wants to help Jenny, but he has reservations and secrets of his own.
When something so private and simple turns public and complicated, will Jenny relent? What is Steve willing to sacrifice to help Jenny?
Review
Just Destiny reminded me a lot of of Jodi Picoult books. A sort of debate. Is it right to take sperm from a dead guy? Even if he is your husband? There was the emotional element, and the personal element. There was a higher romantic element than in Picoult books, and that was, ultimately, what made it fall behind Picoult’s books.
The romance element was interesting, and I did like it. However it drowned out the moral elements, which were what interested me the most.
It was well written, and I quite liked the characters, especially Steve. It was an easy read too, and fairly compelling. I wouldn’t call it an amazing novel, but enjoyable enough
3.5/5
Buy it:
Kindle (£2.39)
Paperback (£12.73)

1 Comment

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Romantic

Landline- Rainbow Rowell


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the publisher (via netgalley) free of charge in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and he still loves her – but that almost seems besides the point now.Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells him that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her – he is always a little upset with her – but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Review

I was all set to start my review with talking about how Landline is the best book by Rainbow Rowell that I’ve read so far. I even had to stay sitting at a bus top because I couldn’t walk home without finishing it. But today I finished Fangirl (the only book I hadn’t yet read by her), and Fangirl is just…better.

Landline was the best Rainbow Rowell book I’d read at the time, however, and I still think it was really good. It’s different to any of her others. It feels more adult than Attachments did. Maybe because Georgie is older, and Lincoln is basically a uni student stuck in a working person’s body (hey, aren’t we all a little like that?), maybe because Georgie has more of an ‘adult life’.

Landline is more instantly engaging than either Attachments or Eleanor & Park (or Fangirl actually, just Fangirl became like an addiction).

I expected the supernatural phone to the past to be a bit too far fetched, but somehow it worked. It seemed almost realistic. It felt more like a classic love story- or rediscovering love story. Plus it took some of the cuteness out of it, and sometimes love stories are too cute.

4/5

Buy it:

Independent via Hive:
Hardback (£8.77)

From Amazon:

Kindle (£4.99)

Hardback (£6.89)

Paperback- released March 2015 (£7.53)

Other reviews:

Curiosity Called the Bookworm

Words for Worms

Nylon Admiral

The Perpetual Page Turner

As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) (as part of month in review)

 

8 Comments

Filed under Chicklit, Contempory, Fiction review, Romantic

The Glass Guardian- Linda Gillard


Synopsis (from amazon)
Ruth Travers has lost a lover, both parents and her job. Now she thinks she might be losing her mind.

When death strikes again, Ruth finds herself the owner of a dilapidated Victorian house on the Isle of Skye: Tigh na Linne, the summer home she shared as a child with her beloved Aunt Janet, the woman she’d regarded as a mother.

As Ruth prepares to put the old house up for sale, she discovers she’s not the only occupant. Worse, she suspects she might be falling in love again.

With a man who died almost a hundred years ago…

Review

This is probably the best Linda Gillard I’ve read since A Lifetime Burning (which still remains my favourite). They both do have a supernatural element, although much stronger in this one.

It actually reminds me quite a bit of Her Fearful Symmetry it has a similar gothic feel, and I always like gothic stories.

The love story was good too, strangely realistic, although the way it ended was a bit too perfect.

3.5/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.99)

Paperback (£5.93)

Other Reviews:

The Little Reader Library

Have I Missed Your Review? Leave Me a Link In Comments and I’ll Add it Here

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Filed under Contempory, Fantasy, Fiction review, Paranormal, Romantic

The Library of Unrequited Love- Sophie Divry


Synopsis (from amazon)

One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight.

She begins to talk to him, a one-way conversation full of sharp insight and quiet outrage. As she rails against snobbish senior colleagues, an ungrateful and ignorant public, the strictures of the Dewey Decimal System and the sinister expansionist conspiracies of the books themselves, two things shine through: her unrequited passion for a researcher named Martin, and an ardent and absolute love for the arts.

A delightful divertissement for the discerning bookworm…

Review

So what to say? I got this book because a few people on The Book Club Forum were saying how much they liked it. And because it was on offer on kindle (it’s still cheap, but it was cheaper). It should be cheap really, it’s a short book, and lacks plot.

It does have a certain charm, but it wasn’t really my type of book. I disliked the protagonist. She seemed bitter, and thought highly of herself whilst looking down on others. She seemed to be a dreamer too though, and I liked that.

The whole book was one long monologue, so it’s best read in one sitting, although I think I may have got bored if I did actually read it in one sitting. It’s short so it is possible, it’s just I tend to use my kindle when travelling so I don’t have unrestricted time.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£2.98)

Paperback (£4.89)

Hardback (£7.00)

Other Reviews:

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link to your review in comments and I will add it here

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

Weeks in Naviras- Chris Wimpress


Disclaimer: I was given this novel free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s late afternoon in the tiny fishing village of Naviras, where Eleanor Weeks is sipping wine and watching the ocean.

Even though she’s been there dozens of times, how she arrived that particular afternoon is a mystery to her. Until she remembers she’s the wife of the British prime minister, and that she’s just been killed in a terrorist attack.

As Ellie explores her personal afterlife, she recalls her troubled marriage during her husband’s rise to the very top of British politics. She remembers the tragedy and secrets which dominated the last ten years of her life, before recounting her role in a conspiracy which threatens to destabilise not just Britain but the wider world.

Review
This book wasn’t what I expected at all. I expected an introspective look back at what had gone wrong. Maybe a view other that Ellie’s at what had happened, and why. Possibly a detached look at what happened afterwards.
There was an introspective element, however that was about as far as it went. Mainly we saw Ellie exploring the world of her afterlife- but it wasn’t all that it seemed. Heaven? Maybe? Or hell? Either way there was something not quite right.
I expected, I don’t know. Something more political and less thriller. That doesn’t mean it was bad, just different. I think I might have prefered what I expected, however this probably is an easier read than the novel I expected, and it certainly kept you hooked.
There was a slight paranormal element which I wasn’t expecting, and which I still can’t quite figure out. If I’d known that there was a paranormal element I probably would have turned the free copy down. However it did make for a unique story, and I did rather enjoy it in the end
3.5/5
Buy it:
Kindle (FREE!)
Paperback (£7.99)

2 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Crime, Fiction review, Mystery, Paranormal

Before I Go to Sleep- S J Watson



Synopsis (from amazon)

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

Review

A couple of years ago everybody was raving about Before I Go To Sleep. I didn’t read it then, partly because I’m not the biggest fan of crime fiction, partly because of my ever expanding to be read pile, and partly because the last raved about crime novel I remembered reading was The Da Vinci Code– which I have no desire to re-read. My Mum had read it, and my boyfriend and a handful of people from BCF had been very positive about it.

However it wasn’t the positive reviews which made me interested so much as the slight psychological plotline- that of Christine having basically no memory. Either way I was interested enough to go out and buy myself a copy, but when my Mum was sorting out books to get rid of (we have nine bookcases in our 3-up 3-down house, so need all the space we can get!) she put Before I Go To Sleep in the pile, and I moved it to my shelves (along with The Tiger’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry). When I actually got around to reading it I was in the mood for something which would be a quick, easy, but (hopefully) gripping read. I read crime the way other people read chick-lit, it’s more of a relaxed easy read (generally, there is some really good crime out there that you really can’t figure out, and that is more taxing). My Mum’s reaction to it more than anything showed me that Before I Go To Sleep would be what I was looking for.

It was that as well. Gripping enough whilst it lasted, but it didn’t really leave any lingering feelings. I guessed the twist quite early on, which meant that anything else was mainly just confirming my theory, although there were enough little twists on the way to make me want to keep reading for the story itself.

I had a bit of a love hate relationship with Christine. She was just too trusting! I understand that you have to trust someone in that situation, but it wasn’t even that she trusted people she met, she tried to force herself to feel things which she thought she should feel for them, I don’t really understand that.

The story was pretty unique. Which probably puts it above other crime novels of a similar quality. However it was just of standard quality. If you’re a fan of crime novels  then you may like this one, but I wouldn’t expect it to live up to hype.

Before I Go To Sleep is meant to be coming out as a film later this year. Nicole Kidman is playing Christine, which must mean they have made her younger. She’s not right for the part at all.

3.5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£3.89)

Kindle (£2.99)

Other Reviews:

Leeswammes’ Blog

Girl Vs Bookshelf

Heavenali

So Many Books, So Little Time

Curiosity Killed the Bookworm

Giraffe Days

Wensend

Piling on the Books

Nose in a Book

Literary Lindsey

Knitting and Sundries

Have I missed your review? Leave me a link in comments and I will add it here.

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Filed under Contempory, Crime, Fiction review, Mystery, Psychology (fiction)

Eleanor & Park- Rainbow Rowell


Synopsis (from amazon)

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried. Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and – in Eleanor’s eyes – impossibly cool, Park’s worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.

Review

There are so many reviews of Eleanor & Park out there that I almost feel that something original cannot be said. Do have a look at the reviews at the bottom for more detailed or different reviews. I tend to go with feelings rather than any real analysis.

So Eleanor & Park. After Attachments I expected to enjoy it, I didn’t expect better because it’s YA and I only usually read YA when I just want to read without thinking. As a more relaxing, easy read. It was on offer for the kindle though, so I thought I would give it a try. Actually I think it was better than Attachments. It was maybe in some ways less adult but it was less superficial I think. Especially from Eleanor’s side of the story.

I got Eleanor. The escapism. the shyness. The uncertainty. I was like her a lot in school. Whilst not having a bad time of it as she does; at home or at school, I could identify more with how she felt at times.

In a sense she was saved by Park. Una @ Watching the Words (see her review below) says it’s anti-feminist. Well maybe, but I don’t see that. It’s just another form of escapism. He facilitates so much of her escapism. The comics, the music. Why can’t he be a form of escapism himself? Does she need him? Maybe not. She ultimately helps herself. He makes it better though. He makes it easier. That’s not about him ‘saving’ her. It’s not about him being a boy. It’s about love. She doesn’t want that to end, of course she doesn’t.

I can’t say I liked Park so much. He grew on me. He understood more about life as he went through.

Yes this is a story about love, but it’s more than that. It’s a story about hope. It’s a story about overcoming bad things in life. It’s a story about finding yourself, and believing in yourself.

4.5/5

Also can I add I love the Rainbow Rowell US covers, the British not so much. Plus this one represents the book much better on the US version

Buy it:

Kindle (£1.49)- until 6th May only
Paperback (£5.59)
Hardback (£14.26)

Other reviews:

If I (somehow!) missed your review post a link in comments and I will add it here.

9 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Romantic, YA

The Storyteller- Jodi Picoult


Synopsis (from amazon)

For seventy years, Josef Weber has been hiding in plain sight.

He is a pillar of his local community.

He is also a murderer.

When Josef decides to confess, it is to Sage Singer, a young woman who trusts him as her friend. What she hears shatters everything she thought she knew and believed.

As Sage uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war, she must follow a twisting trail between terror and mercy, betrayal and forgiveness, love – and revenge.

Review

The Storyteller is a little bit different when it comes to Jodi Picoult. Her books tend to follow a formula, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the subject matter changes, and it works for the type of books she is writing. Her basic outline though is there’s an issue- you see different character’s point of views, and it’s not always clear who you should be backing- at least at first. Usually there’s a twist somewhere along the line which makes you question your own judgement of the situation. Basically they get you thinking- sometimes even after you’ve finished the book.

So you can understand why when I heard Picoult’s new book was centred around a former concentration camp worker I couldn’t work out how her formula would fit. You can make someone feel sympathy for someone like that but you can never make someone understand that there might be a good reason why they did what they did, so how was Picoult going to make that work.

There was a lot more in the past of this book, Franz’s past, the past of one of the women in the concentration camp, and her fictional story, which started before she was in the concentration camp and finished whilst she was there. Then there was the area now. With Sage finding out the truth about Franz. There is an element of should Franz have to suffer for something he had done so long ago, especially if he is remorseful (which at times he seems to be, but at times doesn’t seem genuine), if he is old and might well die before he even gets charged? Can he be forgiven?

It wouldn’t be much of a book if that was the only challenge, so yes there are more, and the history b its are interesting. There is little I can say without giving away some pretty major plot points (and I’m all for spoiler free reviews).

I’m still not sure I would say this is a favourite Picoult, but it’s a little too different to compare. In terms of others which are different it probably is the best, although even the different ones are hard to compare to one another.

4.5/5

Buy it:

Paperback (£3.80)

Kindle (£2.00)

Hardback (£9.00)

Other reviews:

So Many Books, So Little Time

Sam Still Reading

Book Journey

Between the Pages

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8 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical

House of Glass- Sophie Littleford


Disclaimer: I was given this book free of charge (by the publisher, via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Jen Glass has worked hard to achieve the ideal life: a successful career, a beautiful home in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, a seemingly perfect family. But inside the Glass house, everything is spinning out of Jen’s control. Her marriage to her husband, Ted, is on the brink of collapse; her fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant each day; and her five-year-old son barely speaks a word. Jen is on the verge of breaking, but nothing could have prepared her for what is to come….

On an evening that was supposed to be like any other, two men force their way into the Glasses’ home, but what begins as a common robbery takes an even more terrifying turn. Held hostage in the basement for more than forty-eight hours, Jen and Ted must put aside their differences if they are to have any hope of survival. They will stop at nothing to keep their family safe—even if it means risking their own lives.

 

Review

Have you ever watched the TV show Hostages? (Don’t bother is you haven’t it’s compulsive watching, but generally rubbish). There are certain elements of House of Glass which remind me of Hostages.

Obviously they both have a hostage type situation, there is also a hell off a lot going on in each of them which doesn’t really seem like it matters that much to the plot. It’s worst in Hostages because you know why the family are being held hostage, and therefore the extra bits are basically padding. Whereas with House of Glass you don’t know why the family were picked (you know to a level why they are being held hostage, but not enough), so anything which doesn’t seem to be related to the family being held hostage could be a reason.

They do seem both a bit contrived. Like there is too much going on for just one family. Everyone seems to have something bad going on, in the case of House of Glass only one of them is unlikely to be connected to the hostage situation. It feels a bit like there wasn’t enough story so Littleford added extra plot lines to stretch things out a bit.

They also both have a bit of the kidnapper’s own story. It’s something I like about both of them. In House of Glass it’s told through the hostage’s eyes, so you can never truly work the kidnapper’s out. Having said that it was pretty obvious- at least to me- who had bought the kidnapper’s to the family’s door.

It’s pretty action packed and keeps you reading. I wanted to know the truth throughout too, but it wasn’t the best crime book I’ve read, or the best thriller, or the best ‘issue’ book. The previous Littleford book I read was better, but then it was a bit more my type of thing, it’s what made me want to read House of Glass.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£0.59)

Paperback (£8.97)

Other reviews:

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Filed under Contempory, Crime, Fiction review

A Long Thaw- Katie O’Rourke


Disclaimer: I was sent this book free of charge (by the author) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

Cousins Abby and Juliet were born into one big, close family. But when Juliet’s parents divorce, it tears the family apart and sends the girls in very different directions.

Juliet grows up too quickly, forced to be responsible for her younger sisters as well as an alcoholic, single mother. Abby grows up a pampered, sheltered only child.

As women, they try to mend the rift and come to terms with the way their shared history connects them, in spite of the years apart.

Told in alternating narrative, A Long Thaw explores how the two women are shaped by the traumas and triumphs of childhood. It’s a story about the power of secrets and the unbreakable bonds of family.

Review

I read Katie O’Rourke’s previous novel ‘Monsoon Season’ a couple of years ago, I don’t remember much about it, except that I enjoyed it, but I think I preferred this one.

The two characters were very different, Abby maybe a little too settled, Juliet not settled enough. They really did something for each other, in a way it was a coming of age novel, for both of them.

I think as a character I liked Abby best, or at least I identified with her the most, she’s quite similar to me, Abby. Juliet was a little blind. I think she wanted things to be a certain way now she had left her home, and she denied evidence that suggested things weren’t better, or how she wanted them to be.

Whilst I identified more with Abby I did find Juliet’s story more interesting, and I was more eager to read her chapters.

At one point I did think that maybe things were feeling a bit  artificial (and I can’t say what without spoilers) but it was an easy event to accept, and it was something which became a moment which had to happen.

3.5/5

Buy it:
Kindle (£3.59)

Other Reviews:
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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review

Attachments- Rainbow Rowell



Synopsis (from amazon)

It’s 1999 and for the staff of one newspaper office, the internet is still a novelty. By day, two young women, Beth and Jennifer, spend their hours emailing each other, discussing in hilarious detail every aspect of their lives, from love troubles to family dramas. And by night, Lincoln, a shy, lonely IT guy spends his hours reading every exchange.

At first their emails offer a welcome diversion, but as Lincoln unwittingly becomes drawn into their lives, the more he reads, the more he finds himself falling for one of them. By the time Lincoln realizes just how head-over-heels he really is, it’s way too late to introduce himself. What would he say to her? ‘Hi, I’m the guy who reads your e-mails – and also, I think I love you’.

After a series of close encounters, Lincoln decides it’s time to muster the courage to follow his heart? And find out whether there really is such a thing as love before first-sight.

Review

Everybody seems to love Rainbow Rowell right now. I was intrigued to see what was so special about her. Even people who don’t normally review YA seemed to love her, so I thought there must be something. I went for Attachments because it’s her adult novel. I thought it would be  the most…sophisticated, I guess.

I did I suppose expect chick-lit, it sounds like chick-lit. It’s probably the category that Attachments most easily fits into. The style is a little different though. For one thing the main focus is probably Lincoln, where it would usually be a woman in chick-lit. There was a strong focus on Jennifer too, but maybe a little less than to Lincoln. We mainly saw her through her e-mails, we knew a little more about her than Lincoln did, but mainly we knew her as Lincoln did.

I’m not sure why more chick-lit isn’t written like this- with the reader seeing how the man thinks and feels. Surely he can be more attractive if you can see what he is really like? How much he loves his leading lady? With Lincoln it seems even better because he doesn’t know what Jennifer looks like. He falls in love with her personality, before he become physically attracted to her.

In terms of chick-lit it’s very good. Cute. You feel you really get to know the characters, you can see why Lincoln loves Jennifer, and you can love Lincoln himself. Plus there is a very everyday type feel to it. No real dramatic romantic moments, just real life. No perfect, a few pitfalls. Real.

I like the kindle cover, by the way, it’s like one of those magic eye pictures.

4/5

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Kindle (£3.99)

Other Reviews:

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Filed under Chicklit, Contempory, Fiction review

The Uncommon Reader- Alan Bennett



Synopsis (from Amazon)

The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely ( JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.

Review

I think I would think much more of the queen if I knew she read widely, with all that travelling she should be able to, right?

This was a pretty simple, short, read, and entertaining you could quite easily finish it in one sitting.

I found it had me laughing out loud on a number of occasions, and it certainly makes me want to read more Alan Bennett.

If nothing else it really made me love reading. It’s really a book which champions reading, and all it’s wonderful effects.

I find it hard to write a review. Others have done a better job than me. All I can really say is you won’t regret reading it.

4/5

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Paperback (£5.75)
Kindle (£4.19)

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3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Humour

House of Sand and Fog- Andre Dubus III



This book was read as part of The Rory List

Synopsis (from amazon)

Kathy is a young recovering alcoholic recently seperated from her husband. When her family home is repossessed she is devastated. Her house is sold at auction to Behrani, a former Iranian Air Force officer for whom it represents an entry into real estate and a passport to the future for his family and his own version of the American Dream. For Kathy, its loss is the last of a sereis of insults life has dealt her and the stage is set for a gut-wrenching tragedy.

Review

This book was on my wishlist for years, then on my TBR pile for years, and now it’s been in my review queue for about a month, it’s almost as if the fates are against it. I read a review which finally made me take it off my TBR pile and start reading it. I can’t for the life of my remember where the review was, how I wish feedly had a search function! It’s the thing I most miss from google reader. Anyway, if it was you, I apologise, but if you let me know in comments I’ll add a link to it.

So almost a month after reading my overriding thoughts are about the characters. Maybe my reading is a bit character driven because I didn’t really like any characters enough for me to like the book.

My dislike for Lester is probably in fact what connected me most with the book. I couldn’t quite decide if he was just an idiot or was somehow naturally destructive. Loosing her house wasn’t the worst thing that happened to Kathy, meeting Lester was.

I had the most sympathy for Kathy as a character, everything seemed to go wrong for her, although I didn’t think she was completely clean of fault. Maybe she was just naive, but thins did seem to get worse because she didn’t see the big picture, and because she didn’t think things through carefully enough. I can see it as being somewhat a form of denial, if she avoids situations and decisions then how can anything be her fault? I felt sympathetic because she probably got the worst and least deserved problems through most of the book.

I also had some sympathy for Behrani. Really he was just trying to make something of his life. Choosing Kathy’s house to buy was bad luck really, and I can see why he felt he should get something out of it. He didn’t show much thought for others when it came down to it, but for him the house was more than a house. It was his only chance to make something of his life. He was too stubborn mainly, but I didn’t begrudge him.

In the end of things it was too much. The end was a surprise, but somewhat inevitable when you look at past reactions and experiences of the characters.

3/5

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Paperback (£6.47)

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Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Literary

We Need New Names- NoViolet Bullawayo



Disclaimer: This book was given to me free of charge (via netgalley) in exchange for an honest review

Synopsis (from amazon)

‘To play the country-game, we have to choose a country. Everybody wants to be the USA and Britain and Canada and Australia and Switzerland and them. Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo, like Somalia, like Iraq, like Sudan, like Haiti and not even this one we live in – who wants to be a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart?’

Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise, which of course is no such thing. It isn’t all bad, though. There’s mischief and adventure, games of Find bin Laden, stealing guavas, singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices.

They dream of the paradises of America, Dubai, Europe, where Madonna and Barack Obama and David Beckham live. For Darling, that dream will come true. But, like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home, Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges – for her and also for those she’s left behind.

Review

I don’t really know what to say about this book. I’ve been putting off writing my review, and now I’m even more clueless.

It wasn’t a bad book, it was just a bit…meh. There were good bits, but as soon as something started getting interesting the story changed. The time kept leaping so the story didn’t seem seemless. I got a fairly decent idea of what it was like for Darling in her country, but we didn’t seem to actually see much of why it was so bad, apart from being a shanty town.

Again with the American section it felt not quite detailed enough. I got a sense of what it might be like to be an immigrant- maybe more so than someone who lived in a shanty town. However there was just too much information too quickly. We didn’t see how Darling settled in really, or how she got on with different challenges- we just knew they existed. Plus there were bits that seemed even just to be normal teenage issues. Which, yes, Darling would have experienced, but maybe we could have seen a bit of what was more unique about growing up as an immigrant in America if those ‘normal’ teenage sections were taken out.

It had a lot of potential, and I really enjoyed some sections. However I would have liked more detail, any event or thought seemed too quick. It never felt exactly complete.

3/5

Buy it:

Kindle (£4.49)

Paperback- pre-order (£7.16)

Hardback (£10.34)

Other Reviews:

As the Crowe Flies (and reads!)

Word by Word

The Relentless Reader

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review